How often does a player face off against a team with the same name as him?
Last Friday, Matt Gelb of The Athletic tweeted about a funny comment made by Phillies starter Ranger Suárez.
Ranger Suárez is scheduled to start Tuesday's game against the Rangers.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) April 29, 2022
"It's happening, man," he said. "2022. The world is crazy."
This evening, when Ranger Suárez throws his first pitch against Texas, he’ll become the first player named Ranger to play a game against a team called the Rangers.
To be fair, Suárez is the only player named Ranger in MLB history, and he was bound to start against the Rangers eventually. Nevertheless, it’s pretty cool.
But just how cool is it?
Ranger starting against the Rangers got me thinking: how often does this happen? How often does a player play against a team with the same name as him? How often does a starting pitcher face off against his own name?
I was sure it must have happened before. Angel and Ray are pretty common names, and there have definitely been a few players named Rocky too. Nearly everyone was nicknamed Red in the first half of the twentieth century, and one dude named Cub played for a while in the 1800s. There have even been a couple guys names Marlin (in addition to two guys named Marlon, who I’m sure you’re familiar with) and one named Philly.
As for historical names, the Dodgers were briefly called the Robins, the Guardians were once called the Naps, and there used to be a Negro League team called the Dayton Marcos. There have certainly been baseball players named Robin, Nap, and Marco.
As I logged on to Baseball Reference and started researching, however, I realized this was going to be a more unique occurrence than I originally thought.
While there have been about 200 players named Ray in MLB history, most of them played before there was actually a team called the Rays; the Tampa Bay Rays franchise didn’t exist until 1998, and they were called the Devil Rays until 2008.
Since 2008, there have only been five MLB players named Ray. Only one of them has ever played against the Rays — Ray Olmedo, an infielder, who had one plate appearance against Tampa Bay in 2012. No player named Ray has ever started a game against the Rays. There is currently one active player named Ray — Ray Kerr — but he’s a reliever for the Padres and he’s currently in the minor leagues, so it’s rather unlikely we’ll see him starting against the Rays anytime soon.
The other MLB team that shares a name with many former players is the Reds. There have been many, many players named Red over the years, although there has only been one since the 1960s — Red Patterson, who started one game for the Dodgers in 2014 and never appeared in the majors again.
However, if we’re being technical, none of those players were actually named Red. Red was always a nickname. Many of these guys went by Red more often than their legal name, and many of them are officially listed under the name Red on Baseball Reference. But technically, technically Red was still just a nickname.
I don’t think it’s nearly as interesting for a player whose nickname is the same as a team’s name to start against that team. Maybe I’m just being nitpicky because I don’t want to sort through the many, many, many players nicknamed Red who probably started against the Cincinnati Reds at one point or another. But I really do think it’s worth making the distinction between nicknames and actual given names for the purpose of this fun fact.
Speaking of popular nicknames, there have been several major league players named Rocky over the years, but only four since the Colorado Rockies franchise was established in 1993. Of those four, only two were actually named Rocky, and none of them ever started a game against Colorado.
Both players named Marlin finished their careers long before the Marlins were a baseball franchise, and both players named Marlon were position players (not that I would have included them anyway — spelling counts!)
Cub Stricker was a second baseman and Philly Holmes played his entire career in the Negro Leagues, so neither of them make the cut either.
Thus, if we’re not counting the name Red, then there is only one pitcher in major league history who has started a game against a team with the same name as him: Ángel Miranda.
Ángel Miranda was a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1993-1997. He appeared in 116 games and started 47. In 1996, two of his starts came against the California Angels.
It might seem hard to believe that only one pitcher named Ángel has ever started against the Angels. After all, there have been more than two dozen MLB players named Ángel over the years.
However, more than half of those players were position players. Of the 12 pitchers named Ángel, one played before the Angels were a franchise. Of the remaining 11, only four ever started a game. Of those four, one played for the Angels his whole career (Ángel Moreno), one never played against the Angels (Ángel Guzmán), and one is a rookie for the Royals who has only made one start in his big league career (Ángel Zerpa). The other is Ángel Miranda.
Eventually, there is a good chance Ángel Zerpa could start against the Angels. But as it stands right now, Ángel Miranda is the only pitcher named Ángel to have ever started a game against the Angels baseball team.
Ángel Miranda. That’s it. The one pitcher to start against a team with the same name as him.
If you want to get really technical, you could argue that Ángel Miranda doesn’t actually have the same name as the Angels, since Miranda spells his name with an accent. Ángel is the Spanish spelling of the English word “angel”. And of course, I haven’t been considering the translations of every MLB team name in every possible language.
So if Ángel technically isn’t the same name as Angel, where does that leave us?
Well, when Ranger Suárez throws his first pitch tonight against the Texas Rangers, he will make Major League Baseball history as the first pitcher to ever start a game against a team with the exact same name as his given name.
When I first read what Suárez said to Matt Gelb (“It’s happening, man. 2022. The world is crazy.”), I must admit I thought it was a bit of an overreaction. But now that I know that is genuinely the first time such a thing has happening in 146 years of Major League Baseball?
I completely agree with Ranger. It’s pretty crazy.